Are you an effective human? How tourists and monsters are making everything worse
Social media has a lot to answer for, not least the men (and it is mainly men) who champion social causes for their own benefit, and the users who pillage other people's beliefs to push their online profile. Amy Kean's had enough, and her only recourse is violence... but not that type of violence.
Oh, hello! Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name’s Amy. I’m a sociologist and writer. My star sign is Leo and, this year, I decided to choose violence.
2022 is my year of choosing violence, but my version of violence isn’t physical; it’s just a new, punchier way to live.
My version of choosing violence means being more honest and annoying than I’ve ever been.
Choosing violence is, for me, saying what I think to the extent that it scares me a bit. It’s refusing to tiptoe or dance around subjects. It’s embracing confrontation. It’s outing creeps and sexists. It’s practising what I preach so fervently that I have uncomfortable conversations on a daily basis. Fun!
Above: Too often women are treated badly at work and made to feel inferiour simply because they're women.
My version of choosing violence means being more honest and annoying than I’ve ever been, and probably less likeable than I was before. Choosing violence means sticking up for myself - and others - more. My decision to choose violence arose, as most decisions to choose violence do, via an epiphany. In December last year I was treated badly, in the sense that I was overtly and embarrassingly disrespected by a handful of men on a professional project that I’d been very successfully leading (Wow, I bet NO woman has EVER had to deal with a situation like THAT before! *laughs hysterically for hours*).
I heard loads of stories from women still being treated badly at work, still being talked over, ignored, undermined and made redundant for no obvious reason.
As I inched ever-closer to my comic book villain origin story, the painful FUCK YOU! I received from these gents, who should have known better, who claim - often in social media - to care about ‘female empowerment’, was my tipping point.
Last year I heard loads of stories from women still being treated badly at work, still being talked over, ignored, undermined and made redundant for no obvious reason other than they’re women. Still being groped at parties and called ‘abrasive’ and ‘emotional’ and being told they talk too much. The most senior female leaders still being referred to as “the mum of the office” (my pet peeve). So, whilst I didn’t smash the disrespectful fellas’ car windows in with a baseball bat, like Beyonce in Hold Up, I did walk away and decide to choose violence.
Above: Unlike Beyonce, she's not yet resorted to smashing up cars, but Amy Kean has chosen to use her own brand of violence.
These men are tourists. No, I’m not about to choose xenophobia, too. Tourism is a social media trend we all know and have probably dabbled in. A tourist rides social causes like an expert surfer on a gnarly wave. They approach social causes with the same flippancy that one might show towards a weekend trip to Prague, or a summer helping to build a school in Zimbabwe. They’ll take pictures of the street art, sure, maybe some selfies with babies, but their presence is fleeting and their memory short. A tourist is there on their own terms, and in it for a good time. If that good time makes them look *good*, then bingo. They want to ‘empower women’ until it gets to the point where they have to, you know, empower women.
[Tourists are] the smug companies raving about International Women’s Day who were retweeted by @genderpaygapbot, sharing their shocking pay discrepancies.
Tourists aren’t just men. Any human can be a tourist. Brands - i.e. a bundle of humans working in a business park in Slough - are guilty of tourism, too. Eva Longoria is tackling street harassment for L’Oreal, for example. Coca-Cola said they were eco-friendly despite being reported as the largest plastic polluter in the world and adidas promoted body positivity using women that weren’t part of the body positive movement. It’s the smug companies raving about International Women’s Day who were retweeted by @genderpaygapbot, sharing their shocking pay discrepancies.
Above: L'Oreal and adidas are two brands which Kean says are guilty of 'tourism'.
But, when it comes to women’s rights, men can be terrible tourists. There’s a whole lotta social posting and a whole lack of meaningful doing. “But… but… I thought you cared?” you whimper, as they stamp on your self-esteem and head to the pub for an afternoon of booze, banter and backslaps. The tourist says “enough is enough”, “something must be done”, “if you’re ignoring this then you’re a part of the problem”, and goes viral saying “she was walking home”, to create an impression that they care, before doing precisely… nothing.
I can’t be the only one who feels deeply offended when men in social media use murdered women to build their personal brands.
According to Pew Research Centre, 76% of people believe “social media makes people think they are making a difference when they really aren’t.” In a brilliant new book called Get Rich or Lie Trying, about the dark side of influencing, Channel 4 news reporter Symeon Brown, hammers home the issue: “In the past, raising awareness was a first step of activism, but for influencers it is the only stage. In recent years, millions with an eye on their own following have commonly shared videos of violence and added their own caption to ensure they do not miss the chance of their angry tweet going viral.”
In some cases, he says, victims have become memes. I can’t be the only one who feels deeply offended when men in social media use murdered women to build their personal brands, with their attempts at viral tweets, posting pictures of murdered women that they hope will get them a few more followers. Where are these men now? What work are they doing? The tourists went home, I guess.
Above: Activist Gina Martin's tweet from earlier this year.
As activist Gina Martin said, earlier this year: “When Sarah Everard died thousands of men signed up for a specific course on masculinity & gender inequality. Barely 10% actually showed up to the course. Only engaging in conversations about male violence when another woman has died is part of the reason they are still dying.”
After the murder, a group who call themselves #yesallmen came together with the commendable aim of getting men to see that the suffering of women at the hands of men is a man problem for men to solve. Established for the ad industry by Paul Frampton-Calero, #yesallmen is “a movement created by men and for men, to focus on creating improved physical and psychological safety for women.” But the thing about a movement is that it needs people to move, and as Paul told me the other day: “To be honest, I underestimated how difficult it would be to get men to consistently and meaningfully commit.”
We monitor our effectiveness counting social mentions on the Tube each morning, or regularly refreshing the page after posting that mini motivational LinkedIn essay.
Tourists are driven by the wrong kind of effectiveness. What even is an effective human, these days? Effectiveness, in the traditional sense, is the achievement of a desired or anticipated result. This campaign was effective in driving sales. That medicine is effective at curing disease. But human effectiveness in a social age (web2 or web3 or whatever) is a numbers game. We monitor our effectiveness counting social mentions on the Tube each morning, or regularly refreshing the page after posting that mini motivational LinkedIn essay about Mother Theresa’s leadership style. Effectiveness today is optics, not action.
Above: Will 2022 be the year in which people find - and espouse - their own thoughts and opinions instead of using other people's, like a social media monster?
Which brings us to another product of social effectiveness culture: Frankenstein’s monsters. A Frankenstein’s monster in social media is someone who lifts the most effective parts of other people’s personality, vocabulary and beliefs in order to gain likes and shares. They lift and repurpose and plagiarise because, despite loud voices and time on their hands, the thing they have none of is originality. Their posts always feel strangely familiar…
A Frankenstein’s monster in social media is someone who lifts the most effective parts of other people’s personality, vocabulary and beliefs in order to gain likes and shares.
Last year I saw a Frankenstein’s monster rip off a charity’s entire model and creative platform, just for clout. Frankenstein’s monsters love tourism because it gives them an enemy to shout about for a day or two, which is highly effective because, according to psychologists, hate helps us bond.
I choose violence in 2022, but maybe 2022 will also be the year men decide to meaningfully commit and lose their tourist status. Maybe in 2022 the Frankenstein’s monsters will find their own thoughts, and then act on them. For most men, I don’t think their lack of commitment makes them bad people. Rather, I think it’s because they’re not brave enough. Privileged people have never needed to be particularly brave, and most men genuinely believe it’s another man’s problem.
Above: Social media tourism is sustaining someone else's pain.
The men I know don’t understand why I get upset when they tweet “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and then do nothing. Let me explain: your tourism, however lovely it looks, is ineffective in real life, which is the most important bit. Your tourism is hurting people. Your tourism is sustaining somebody else’s pain. Your tourism means all women are still not treated as equals. Your tourism is part of the reason women are still dying. 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. Your tourism means that, with inaction, your daughter (if you’re “a father of daughters” 😉) has an almost 100% chance of being sexually harassed, that it is almost guaranteed.
The men I know get furious when I try to talk to them about this. I get told I’m causing trouble and not being nice. “Why are you so harsh when we’re raising awareness?” they say and, all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy. I’m choosing violence, and losing friends in the process.
Am I choosing violence? Or am I being made to feel like I’ve chosen violence for spotting inconsistencies and stating facts?
But am I choosing violence? Or am I being made to feel like I’ve chosen violence for spotting inconsistencies and stating facts? Is my crime that significant? I work with women every day who censor themselves and what they really feel because they don’t want to piss off men. The fear is real, and typical of a society where we’ve been taught that if we answer back we’re being unruly and problematic and not nice. Where if we question tradition we’re called man-haters.
Every one of us has a part to play in making the world better. I admire those who dedicate their lives to activism, something I haven’t managed to do yet. But I can try and combat tourism, even if it makes me less likeable. Even if I lose friends. Because this is important, right? Perhaps we fight fire with fire. Perhaps, like an armchair Batman, I will scour the web for examples of meaningless allyship and scrawl “YOU’RE A TOURIST” in the replies, unless I see evidence of action.
Is that choosing violence, or is it just being honest?